Ohio State's third game week of the season is in full swing.
Coming off a 42-0 win over Cincinnati and gearing up for its first Big Ten game of the year at Indiana on Saturday (Noon, Fox), Ohio State coach Ryan Day, running backs coach Tony Alford, co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, quarterback Justin Fields, wide receiver K.J. Hill, linebacker Pete Werner and bullet Brendon White all met with the media during the Buckeyes' game-week press conference on Tuesday.
Updates from all seven of their question-and-answer sessions can be found below.
- On Binjimen Victor: "I think Ben's really going to be important to us going forward." Said he's the guy who has to fill the shoes of Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon as a big-play threat in Ohio State's receiving corps.
- Day said that despite Ohio State's 42-0 win over Cincinnati on Saturday, "the issues are on film," and those issues aren't going to go away unless the Buckeyes fix them. He said they have to focus on the process, not the result.
- Day said he hasn't seen any big changes in Indiana's defensive scheme even though Kane Wommack is now running the defense now instead of Tom Allen.
- On Master Teague: "He has run pretty hard on film the past two weeks, and if he can continue to practice the way he has the couple weeks ... we'll feel more comfortable with him handling more snaps in the games."
- On Justin Fields' improvement from week one to week two: "Overall, it was solid, and we got to keep building on it." Likes what he's seen from Fields, but said Fields did take more hits against Cincinnati than he would like to see. Said he thinks Fields is playing with confidence, as he should be. "I think Mike Yurcich has done an excellent job" as Fields' quarterbacks coach, Day said. "To see the way he's worked with Justin here so far is remarkable."
- Day said one reason why the Buckeyes haven't thrown as many crossers over the middle so far this season as they have in past seasons is because of Fields' inexperience and are trying to ramp up the game plans for him.
- "As the level of competition increases, those windows are going to get tighter for Justin, those coverages are going to get tighter for the receivers."
- On Jeff Okudah: "I think he's playing like a pro. He's approaching it that way ... He'll still tell you he's a long way away from being a finished product ... Year three in the program, he's killing it."
- Day said Jaylen Harris has done a "really good job on special teams," which has enabled him to earn a spot in the wide receiver rotation.
- On Austin Mack: "He's made some big, big catches for us," but Day still wants to see more production out of him. Said Mack was battling a hamstring injury during the preseason but he's getting healthier now.
- Off the field, Day described Mack – the president of the student organization Redefining Athletic Standards – as a "very thoughtful young man."
- On J.K. Dobbins' performance against Cincinnati: "I thought he ran hard with an edge to him." Thought he made "significant improvement" from week one to week two.
- On Joe Burrow: "I couldn't be any prouder of a guy than Joe. The way he competed out there, the way he threw, he's come a long way since his freshman year." Said he watched the entire LSU-Texas game on Saturday night. "He looked like an NFL quarterback out there."
- Day said he recruited new Indiana starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and isn't surprised to see him succeeding, describing him as "very talented." "I think he's going to have a really good career."
- On Shaun Wade: "Very, very talented. Extremely talented." Said he can do a lot of things for the Ohio State defense and he expects him to have a great year.
- Day said the Ohio State defense has a "chip on their shoulder" and "I love being around guys like that."
- Day said the plan to win is to gain at least two first downs on offense and then control field position with its defense and special teams.
- On Fields: "We want to get the point where he knows what's coming before the snap happens."
- Day said the Buckeyes view Dobbins as their primary running back and expect him to see the majority of carries this year, unlike the past couple years with Dobbins split carries evenly for the most part with Mike Weber.
- On teams losing to opponents they really shouldn't lose to: "If there was an easy answer for that, it wouldn't happen." To avoid that against Indiana this week, the Buckeyes need to make sure they prepare the same way they did last week and be at their best physically, mentally and emotionally.
- Alford said Dobbins' block on Justin Fields' touchdown run carried more weight in his evaluation of Dobbins' performance against Cincinnati than his 60-yard touchdown run of his own.
- Alford said the Buckeyes were confident in Dobbins going into their season opener at Indiana two years ago because of what they had seen in practices.
- On Master Teague: "He runs really hard ... The kid is a powerful kid. He can run, he's big, he's strong ... I think we're becoming more comfortable every single day with him .... With what he's doing right now, he's earning himself more playing time."
- Asked about running back recruiting, Alford repeated what he said a month ago, "We're fine."
- Alford said the Buckeyes' performance against Cincinnati on Saturday was "far from flawless" despite the 42-0 win.
- On Indiana: "We're going to play a team that has played us well in recent years. They're hungry ... Very good football team. Well-coached football team."
- On the importance of running backs pass blocking for Justin Fields: "We have a quarterback now that can extend plays ... It's very critical that we hold up in the blocking game, in our pass protection schemes."
- Alford said his approach to recruiting running backs hasn't changed even though the Buckeyes don't have one yet.
- On losing battles in recruiting this year: "If you're competitive at all, then it hurts when you don't win ... I don't like to lose, so does it bother me? Hell yeah, it bothers me. But at the same time, you pick up and go again."
- Alford likes what he has seen so far from true freshman running backs Marcus Crowley and Steele Chambers – "I think they're both going to be really good players for us here at Ohio State" – but they still need to work on improving their attention to detail.
- On Demario McCall: "Demario's a guy that has potential to be a matchup problem in a lot of different ways, so we have to figure out where those matchups are." Alford said the Buckeyes don't view either McCall or Teague as a true No. 2 running back because it's really situational.
- Alford said he believes Dobbins is finishing runs better than he had and has gotten stronger from earlier in his career. "Is he a finished product? Absolutely not. He's gotta get a lot better. He had a decent week ... He's a real hungry kid and wants to do well, so that's what we're working toward."
- Alford said he hopes that Fields and Dobbins can play off each other in the running game the same way Dobbins and J.T. Barrett did, but it won't be exactly the same because the offense is different now.
- Mattison said he believes the key to success isn't finding players in recruiting as much as it is developing them once they arrive at Ohio State.
- Mattison said it makes it more fun to coach defense when the offense and special teams are as good as they are at Ohio State.
- Mattison believes Brendon White is developing well at the bullet position and that he expects the Buckeyes to use the bullet position more as the year progresses against offenses that spread defenses out more. FAU and Cincinnati both used a lot of 12 personnel, so the Buckeyes relied more on Pete Werner as a traditional Sam linebacker. The difference in snaps between them likely won't be as big in future games.
- Mattison said he believes dual-threat quarterbacks are more dangerous to defend "by far" than pocket passers at the collegiate level. "When you have a guy that can scramble, that can make plays with his feet ... it really makes things more difficult for you."
- Mattison believes how fast the Buckeyes are running to the ball has been the key to their defensive success so far.
- On Indiana's offense: "I think they're a very, very good football team ... Indiana is always very well-coached, they play extremely hard. They're going to be a very big test ... They have a mobile quarterback, and they're not afraid to spread it out."
- Mattison said he believes the gaps between the starters and backups on Ohio State's defensive depth chart have decreased significantly. He also believes the Buckeyes have trust in each other that if they come out of the game for someone else, the other guy will do the job just as effectively.
- He says he doesn't feel as sore as last week.
- Has Fields talked much with Dwayne Haskins since the season began? "No, not really. I'm sure he's focused on the season and I'm focused on my team."
- "I'm not really focused on stats, to be honest. I'm just focused on wins."
- Fields says coaches emphasize to avoid talking trash in blowouts in order to avoid penalties.
- On what Day called a "bad sack" against Cincinnati: "When I took that sack, that just was dumb. i was sitting back way too long." He says the offensive line did a good job, and he had to throw it away. He didn't see the defender coming.
- Fields says the running game "kind of opens up more" since defenses have to account for him as a runner.
- He says he watched some of the LSU-Texas game. He doesn't know either quarterback personally.
- Fields says J.K. Dobbins was "pretty upset" about missing a block in the first game of the season, and he had more confidence in that aspect in the second week.
- He's not surprised with how well he has played.
- "Our defense is talented." He says it begins with Chase Young.
- Fields says it's important to make the smartest decision when deciding whether to take off and run or throw the ball away. "He says you can't win every play, so sometimes you have to live with 2nd-and-10."
- On Austin Mack: "He's got more of a sense of urgency this year since he knows it's his last year, last chance." Hill says he's a "well-known person around campus" due to his off-field endeavors.
- Has Fields' performance surprised Hill at all? "Not really. We've seen it all training camp and the spring."
- Hill says the team talked about what to do when Fields scrambles. "We've just got to keep practicing it." He says Fields is always keeping his eyes downfield, which leads to more opportunities for yards for receivers.
- He says the offense has become more versatile in the run game this year because both Fields and Dobbins can hurt defenses with their feet.
- Hill says defenses have tried to take away the crossing routes.
- Is Hill frustrated sometimes with defenses taking away crossing routes since they're sometimes easy money: "Oh yeah, definitely. I've just got to find more money other ways."
- Hill says he saw Kyriq McDonald's eyes rolling back in his head. "But when I seen him start shaking, I knew something was wrong." He then realized he was having a seizure. He says his grandmother used to have seizures so he knew exactly what it was.
- Hill on Garrett Wilson's touchdown: "I feel like that was just one of many."
- White says playing a left-handed quarterback can increase the degree of difficulty for cornerbacks but not for linebackers.
- He says the defense focused on pursuit to the ball throughout the offseason. "That's definitely helped now with limiting big plays."
- White says the scheme of the offenses have led to him playing less. "At the end of the day if I'm playing a lot or not playing at all, I just want to get the win."
- He says he and Pete Werner have helped each other based on their different background.
- What's White's favorite part of the defense? "I would say we have more swagger to us. We have more confidence to us too." That clicked at the beginning of fall camp.
- What makes Indiana a difficult opponent? "They're tough. Everyone wants to beat Ohio State, and that's every team."
- White says the talent showed when the coaches allowed them to "just play ball" the past two games.
- On calling a blitz where he rotates to free safety: "Well, we've done it for a while now." He says it's "different" and a "weird feeling." It takes him back to his freshman and sophomore high school seasons.
- He says he feels like he has a "little bit" of familiarity and feel for playing like a defensive back.
- Werner says he goes by "Sam" in regards to his position as the Sam linebacker.
- On learning together with Brendon White: "We just learn from each other. He's a great kid, great athlete." He says the complement each other.
- On playing the same position as White which means they play a different amount each week at the same position: "We know that. We just kind of do what coach tells us to do."
- "I'm just going with the flow, having some fun."
- Did Werner, an Indianapolis native, almost end up at Indiana: "I wouldn't say that." He says the Hoosiers were late to recruit him.
- Werner says there was a "little bit" of wonder of how much he'd play this fall when the new defensive coaches implemented a new scheme.